Book Summaries

The book containing the collection of sacred writings accepted by Christians as inspired of God and as possessing divine authority. For the Jew the term means the Hebrew Bible, which, as originally arranged, consisted of 24 books, but is now divided into the 39 books designated by Christians as the Old Testament. To it Christians have added a collection of 27 writings which they call the New Testament. In addition to these 66 books of the OT and NT, the Roman Catholic Bible includes 12 other writings which Protestants classify as "Apocrypha." The authoritative text of the Bible for Protestants is the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT; for Roman Catholics, it is the Vulgate, a Latin translation made by Jerome in the 4th cent. a.d.; and for the Greek Orthodox Church, the Septuagint (LXX), together with the Greek NT.

Our English word "Bible" is a transliteration, through the Latin and Old French, of the Gr. biblia, literally, "little books." In ancient times the common writing material was papyrus, manufactured from an Egyptian reed or sedge plant of the same name, whence our English word "paper" (see Writing Materials). The Greek name for papyrus was bublos (later, biblos), later given also to manufactured writing material, and finally to a papyrus scroll or *book. The ancient Phoenician city between Sidon and Tripolis known as Byblos (the Gebal of the OT) derived its name from its extensive trade in this writing material. Biblia is properly the plural of biblion (Lk 4:17), the diminutive form of biblos (Mt 1:1), and hence means literally "little books," Biblos and biblion are used in the LXX in the phrases rendered "the books of the law" (1 Macc 1:56), the "books" of the prophets (Dan 9:2), "the holy books" (1 Macc 12:9), and in the prologue to Sirach for the 3rd part of the Hebrew canon of the OT, the Writings.

The usual designation for the sacred writings in the NT is hai graphai, "the scriptures," Latin scriptura (Mt 21:42; 22:29; Lk 24:32; Jn 5:39; Acts 17:2, 11; 18:24; etc.). The singular he graphe is also used to designate the collection of the scriptures as a whole (Jn 7:38; Rom 4:3; etc.), but sometimes it refers to a single specific passage (Lk 4:21; Jn 13:18; etc.). In addition to the simple designation hai graphai, "the scriptures," the NT speaks of the graphai hagiai, "holy scriptures" (Rom 1:2), the hiera grammata, "sacred writings" (2 Ti 3:15, RSV), "the law and the prophets" (Mt 7:12; Lk 16:16), "the law the prophets the psalms" (Lk 24:44), "the law" (Jn 12:34), and "the oracles of God" (Rom 3:2; cf. Acts 7:38).

Liberal critical scholars for nearly a century stressed the diversity in the documents of the Scriptures, but in present-day theological thinking there is a renewed emphasis on the essential unity of the Bible. Its great unifying principle, its central theme, is the redemptive plan, and the working out of that plan in human history. But the unity of the Bible must not be interpreted as uniformity. In the various books of the Scriptures the redemptive plan is viewed from various angles, and stress is laid on various aspects, with varying emphasis.

There has also been a shift in emphasis in recent theological thinking from ideas to events as they are portrayed in the Bible. It has even been suggested that we should speak of the Bible as the "Acts of God" rather than the "Word of God." The Bible, it is observed, is the story of redemptive history (Heilsgeschichte), the account of what God has done, is doing, and will yet do for the saving of mankind, and of man's responses to these saving acts. While there is much truth in this viewpoint, the Bible is more than this. God's saving acts have also to be interpreted, and these interpretations, too, partake of the nature of divine revelation precisely because they are witness, under the Holy Spirit, to God's unique act of self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Thus the NT contains not only a record of Jesus' saving acts in history but also the authoritative apostolic interpretation of these events. God's saving acts find their centre in the death, resurrection, and ministry of Christ, and the significance of these acts is made clear in the apostolic witness of the NT.

The Bible, like the person of its Author, Jesus Christ, is the result of a mysterious combination of the divine and the human. As the human mind is incapable of fully explaining the incarnation, so it cannot fully explain the Bible. In writing the various books of the Bible the authors' own personalities had full play, and their own style and vocabulary are reflected in the finished product. Yet the Bible is, nevertheless, "inspired by God" (2 Ti 3:16, 17, RSV). While men did the speaking, they did so as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pe 1:21). The Bible is therefore in a special sense the Word of God.

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.